Thursday, February 26, 2009

Great Balls Of Fire

Jerry Lee Lewis would have been proud if he'd been in the House chamber yesterday, cause there was a whole lotta debatin goin on. Primary seat belt laws and the national popular vote were the primary culprits. Lively, spirited and passionate certainly fill the bill for describing those two issues. I voted the seat belts up and the popular vote down, which gave me a 1-1 record as both bills passed out. The highlight for me came when a motion for immediate consideration by Rep. Sample was voted down and the fur kept flying. I've always thought there was too little debate on the floor and in plenty of cases in committee, so I think everybody, including the gallery, enjoyed the back and forth.

I ran my district court bill along with a foster care transition bill on the floor today and both passed easily, with the only two dissenters being on the court bill. I have a pretty good sized Juvenile bill yet to run, along with a few others, and the filing deadline comes up a week from Monday. Appropriation bills are due Monday and the only thing I have in the hopper there is a request for funding at UACCH.

I had talked about filing a constitutional amendement extending term limits in the House from 3 terms to 4. But in the end there were several of those types filed, so we'll see if anything makes it out.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

It Ain't Over Till The Fat Lady Sings

The session that is. She may be clearing her throat though. Today the Chairman of House Rules, Rep. Robert Moore, introduced a resolution that calls for adjournment on or about April 10th. We would come back on May 1st for Sine Die adjournment and that's it. Sounds good to me as long as we get everything tidied up with the appropriation bills. And that's not counting the federal stimulus money coming down the road. Still plenty of work to do, but I hope that April date becomes a reality.

Speaking of things not being over, you'd have to include the lottery legislation in that description. Although I do believe things are close to being finalized, and we'll be voting on a bill in the very near future.

And who wouldn't be ready for Razorback basketball season to be over. Although they did give us a couple of big thrills this year with the Texas and Oklahoma games. They were oh so close too many times, but just couldn't get over the hump when it came to SEC play. I hope the chemistry stays there, and next year this team can put some of those close games in the win column.

I, along with Senator Teague, and Representatives Cole and Stewart will be in Nashville on Saturday morning for a regional Farm Bureau breakfast. I look forward to being there and enjoying a big breakfast of pancakes and sausage.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Ya Know What I'm Sayin

Maybe you do and maybe you don't, but it doesn't really matter since today I'm talking sports. Here's the deal (that may be my next catch phrase title): Rick Reilly of ESPN is doing a daily Mt. Rushmore of sports for each state. I haven't seen Arkansas's yet and I don't know what his criteria is for choosing, but I might as well weigh in. Here are the 4 people who I believe, should be on our Mt. Rushmore of sports.

Frank Broyles--Facilities, National championship and generally put the program on the map.
Brooks Robinson--Arguably greatest 3rd baseman of all time. No argument on defensive side.
Jermaine Taylor--Maybe, Maybe not, but only world champ from Arkansas.
Bear Bryant--Though Alabama will claim him, he rassled his bears in Fordyce.

Almost at the top: John McDonnell, Nolan Richardson,Sidney Moncrief, Dizzy Dean, Lance Alworth (I know he's from Mississippi), Lou Brock, and Clyde Scott. There you are. Not a definitive or empirical list, but it's mine. Maybe you have one too.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I Heard That

As I continue with another worn out catch phrase for my title, here's what I'm hearing:

AG Dustin McDaniel proposed marriage, on Valentine's Day no less, to Ms. Bobbi Fowler of Jonesboro. That should formally disqualify the General from any future appearances on ABC'S "The Bachelor". Though I'm pleased to announce the upcoming nuptials, I'm fairly embarrassed that I know which network airs "The Bachelor".

My seatmate and good friend, Rep. Steve Harrelson, apparently announced his run for a Senate seat last night on Jessica Dean's channel 7 webcast. The seat is currently held by Senator Barbara Horn who is term limited. Way to go Steve- Bustin' it out on the world wide web.

What a privilege to have the former President here yesterday. It was also good for my wife, who worked in the early Clinton campaigns and served for 12 years as a parole board appointee. She had not seen him since before he announced for the presidency, and she was able to have a nice visit after all those years. Afterwards, Vigi treated me to lunch and she sat in on yesterday's session. Late in the day we cruised out to Baby's R Us and bought out the store for our 13 month old great niece, Sandra Grace. We ended the day with dinner and friends at Brave New Restaurant. We headed home about 9:00 and this is what I heard: Honey, this was really a nice day. I agreed.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

President Clinton In The House

Former President Bill Clinton will address a joint meeting of the Legislature on Wednesday morning at 10 am. Most of us have seen Mr. Clinton on several occassions over the years, but I consider it an honor to be sitting on the front row while a former President of the United States talks to me and my colleagues. Security will be tight and I am looking forward to the day.

The tobacco tax bill was signed by the Governor today at 2:30, and I, along with several other Senators and Representatives, attended the news conference. Like everyone else who voted for the tax, and the healthcare initiative attached, I've taken a fair amount of heat on my vote. In the end, I'm glad the money will be there for much needed healthcare problems, but I also understand the position of those who voiced opposition. I doubt it was an easy vote for any of the 75 Reps or 28 Senators who sent this to the Governor. I'm sure everybody had a better idea on how to fund the proposals, but HB1204 was the legislation presented and nothing else really had a chance to get any traction. That's the reality of it, and if you're the Governor, and you get the Speaker and President Pro Tem to go along with it, chances are you're going to pass the legislation. Politics 101. So most of us had to decide the greater good; though many of us weren't comfortable raising taxes on a specific group in uncertain economic times. Issues here aren't always black and white, even though some would have you believe otherwise. It's time now to make sure the money gets to those who need it and the 200 lives saved becomes a reality.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It Is What It Is

Just a note to let you know that I believe I'll title all of my posts from here on out with some of those inane catch-phrases that seep into the language. No better way to get it started than with this first ballot hall of famer.

Razorback day at the Capitol provided an impromptu pep rally in the second floor rotunda just before we convened today. The band and cheerleaders got the juices flowing with the Razorback fight song and William Tell (Lone Ranger) overture . It was fun for all and plenty of hog calls to go around.

Much debate and an impassioned plea by Rep. Steve Breedlove, a Church of Christ minister who spoke against it, couldn't keep the guns in church bill from passing on to the Senate. The vote was 57-42, with one not voting. I was one of the 42 and honestly surprised it was as close as it was. That gives me a little hope that the Senate may quash this on their end. We will see.

The Senate Revenue and Tax committee passed the tobacco tax bill out today, and it's my understanding there is still work to be done in garnering the 3/4 needed to send it the Governor's way. Senator Larry Teague paved the way in committee by providing the swing vote to get it out.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Here's What's Happening

Today proved to be a short day with only budget bills being considered. We were done in short order and I get the chance to check in on the old blog for some odds and ends stuff. Here we go:

What's with all the apologizing? First there was Rep. Mark Martin's apology last Friday for his outburst on the House floor during the tobacco tax debate. His mea culpa seemed to be sincere, the members accepted it and everybody moved on. But now, here comes A-Rod, and he apparently has ESPN carrying his apology on a 24 hour basis. Good grief. I haven't heard that many"I'm sorry's" since my mother caught me signing her name to my 7th grade English progress report. Mama's punishment was swift and sure, as she left an indelible mark on the body part where A-Rod injects his performance enhancing drugs. No doubt this world misses my Mama.

We had a busy morning in the Judiciary committee and sent 11 bills to the House floor. Rep. Beverly Pyle's guns in church bill, came back to us with an amendment and it easily passed out again. I voted no this time too, and my reasons are still the same. Also, there was some fairly interesting discussion on a bill by Rep. Dan Greenberg. His bill proposes that anyone, for a fee, can run an ACIC criminal background check on any candidate filing for elective office in Arkansas. Once you get the results of the background check, and find that 40 years ago the candidate signed his Mama's name to a 7th grade progress report, what are you going to do with the damning information. You can (a) call the nearest reporter, (b) use discretion and keep it to yourself, or, (c) blackmail the hell out of somebody. So this is the thought I've got: If times are so bad that we have to carry concealed weapons to church, and run criminal checks on our candidates, then heaven help us all.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Senate's Ball Now

Wow! 75 to 24. Razor thin I would say. Some emotional debate and an emotional vote. A roll call was requested and it stood up. Rep. J.R. Rogers was not present today so he was the lone legislator not here to vote. It's up to the Senate now, and they have to come up with 27 votes to send HB 1204 to Governor Beebe. I obviously voted for the measure and though I have reservations on raising taxes, I feel the greater good for our state was to support this bill. All of us will take hits on this issue, but I can tell you I heard from both sides many times over. Ultimately, my decision was based on what I believe will help save lives and provide better health care to thousands of Arkansans.

Big Vote Coming

HB 1204, the cigarette tax, will be voted on in a few minutes. I've been told that we have the 75 votes needed, but we will wait and see. Expect a close shave and I am predicting 78 yeas. 99 members are in their seats, apparently ready to take a stand. But you never know who's going to press that yellow present button and abstain. I will not. Rep. Reep is presenting the bill now. I'll be back.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Little of This and a Little of That

Here's a smattering of things coming and going. Rep. Barbara Nix, (D)-Benton, presented a House resolution yesterday honoring Cy Young award winner, Cliff Lee of Benton. He and his family were in attendance for the recognition. Afterwards, he graciously signed baseballs for the autograph hounds from the chamber.

The guns in church bill came out of judiciary yesterday on a voice vote. I voted against the bill for a number of reasons. But when I boiled it down to my thinking and listening to my locals, I couldn't answer the question of why churches need this law. And much simpler than that is this-it just doesn't feel right. The vote comes before the house today.

I attended the unveiling of the Winthrop Paul Rockefeller bust in the Capitol rotunda at noon today. The Governor, Lt. Governor and Secretary of State all had brief remarks to an overflow crowd. The former Lt. Governor's widow, Lisanne, performed the honor of unveiling the bust. It was a fitting tribute to a fine man who loved his family and his state, and dedicated his life to making things better.

Breaking news---I'm told the guns in churches bill is being pulled down to have it amended. So it looks like we'll get it on another day.

HB 1204 went before the Rules committee at noon and sailed out. In case your not up to snuff (no pun intended) on bill numbers, that's the cigarette tax. Tomorrow will be the day to see if the votes are there. 75 is the magic number and I've heard anywhere from 70 to 74 votes are on board for passage. Things are tight to say the least.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Monday Monday

Ok, we're back at it and I think it's going to be a pretty interesting week. Judiciary gets Rep. Pyle's bill tomorrow regarding carrying a concealed weapon to church. Though I straddled the fence on this at first, I'm pretty convinced that this is an over-reaction to some horrible tragedies. In fact, most of my calls and e-mails have asked that I vote against the legislation. I get to have a listen in the morning.

The cigarette tax and immigration bills continue to gather the most attention from e-mailers. I will say that my mail box has been pretty evenly matched for those for and against on both issues. It also appears the lottery bill is pretty close to firming up and some say it will be over a hundred pages long. Should be a fun read.

Rep. David Rainey and I are in the process of raising money from house members to go towards those Arkansans devastated by last week's storms. In 2007, Dumas was hit by a major tornado and the membership responded with several thousand dollars donated to the recovery. Hope we can do it again, but this is a larger area and we need to come up with a central location to distribute the funds.

The Super Bowl exceeded everybody's expectations and was pretty entertaining. One of my friends pointed out that the Super Bowl might be the only event that we've participated in for 43 straight years. That's probably true since a stomach virus, and the phenagren that chased it away, knocked me out for the Christmas of 93. Now there's a fond memory.